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“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44 ESV)

Even in things secular, quantity of words is a poor indicator of quality of message. The speech that preceded Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was delivered by a noted orator of the day named Edward Everett, who spoke for two hours. In a letter to Lincoln, Everett later wrote, “I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.”

So also, it would be a mistake to judge either the depth or the value of Jesus’ Parable of the Hidden Treasure on the basis of word count. The entire parable is communicated in just thirty-four English words, even fewer in its original Greek, yet the message is profound. It ought not surprise us that the same God responsible for the compression of carbon into diamonds is able to compact human words into the priceless gems of truth that fill the pages of our Bibles.

Note first that Jesus did not here tell us what the kingdom of heaven should be like; he told us what it is like. Therefore, if the kingdom of heaven in the individual heart does not appear as here described, the failure lies with the individual, not the kingdom—in which case it is time to repent and amend. This is the mirror of the Law in the parable.

Yet it is the Gospel that always predominates in the teachings of the One Who did not come to condemn, but to save. The “kingdom of heaven” is the rulership of the God of heaven in the heart of man. Once God establishes that rulership, all else is pushed aside as inferior, nonessential, and therefore expendable. That treasure fills the heart and directs the Christian’s thoughts and actions. Who, having found such a treasure, would be distracted by the inanities of life while personal possession of the great treasure remains uncertain? Once possessed, it remains that greatest of all treasures.

Some spend their lives searching for this priceless truth. These “searchers” are addressed by Jesus in the parables that follow. Here we are told of a man who stumbles upon what he in no way sought, as the Gentiles who heard the message of Paul, and the Samaritan woman who went to the well for water and found living water. Recall how she then “left her water jar” (John 4:28 ESV), for she had found her treasure and could not be distracted.

The heart of the man in the parable is filled with joy because, though in no way looking, he has found something of incalculable value that was earned by another. Once found, the finder’s greatest fear is the loss of this treasure, so he hides it until he can secure it as his own. Yet note that he does not attempt to buy the treasure, for he cannot. He seeks to make his own the field in which it is found. The “field” in which the hidden treasure is found is the Word of God. To most it is just another book. To Christians it is infinitely more, for there our priceless treasure has been revealed to us—forgiveness of sins and eternal life earned for us by our Savior Jesus. That treasure is also now yours. Allow the joy of the discovery of your great treasure, and your ownership thereof, to fill your heart and to prioritize every aspect of your walk of life.

Michael Roehl

Michael Roehl is pastor of Saint Paul Lutheran Church in Bismarck, North Dakota.